Expectations are funny things. They tell us how something should be, should look, or should work out. Sometimes, we have no/few expectations, and an experience brings us unanticipated satisfaction. No problem here! But frequently, we set our expectations unrealistically high, leaving us (or someone else) feeling disappointed and demotivated.
Simply being aware of the power of expectations – and the need to manage them – can be very useful. This is especially true when we are trying something new. We need to feel the freedom to fail, not have all the answers, and move slowly. If you want to make a change or explore a new opportunity, remember these tips:
The promise of rewarding results is what gives us the energy to move forward. But we shouldn’t expect too much progress, too quickly. Progress is incredibly motivating, but falling short has the reverse effect.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Be careful to set small, achievable objectives rather than one giant long-term goal.
Don’t pretend to have knowledge you lack.
Often we profess knowledge or competence in an area because we feel this is required. But bravado can quickly turn to despair if it leads to being in over our head. Better to fess up to now knowing Excel than to claim expertise, only to be expected to run a complicated spreadsheet on day one.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Be open about your limitations and willing to do whatever is necessary to overcome them.
Overestimate the time you will need.
We tend to estimate time assuming all aspects of a project will go perfectly. Unfortunately, this rarely happens. You may think you can finish the report by the end of the day, until you get a call from school telling you to come and pick up your feverish child.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Build in time for the unexpected when defining your timeframe.
Be clear about what you promise to deliver.
Sometimes we get in trouble because we aren’t specific about what we will (and won’t) do. Saying “I’ll help with that event” is too broad. Will you… recruit volunteers? order supplies? manage the financials?
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Be very specific with yourself and others when describing what you will accomplish.
Ask for help.
Often we overestimate our own abilities, expecting ourselves to be competent in areas where we simply are not. Just because someone else can do something, doesn’t mean we “ought to” be able to. Remember, if you are trying something you’ve been avoiding, it is probably because you don’t feel capable. A little money invested wisely (e.g. in a class, for technical expertise, etc.) can save a lot of time and headache.
PRACTICAL APPLICATION: Bring in a specialist who can help you get started and be available if you need help along the way.
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The expectations we carry set the bar for how we will define success. The lower our expectations, the greater chance we have of being pleasantly surprised.
What experiences have you had of exceeding or falling short of expectations?